During a Tonight Show appearance in 1978, Johnny Carson asked Carl Sagan about the scientific accuracy of Star Wars. Sagan replied: The 11-year-old in me loved them but they could have made a better effort to do things right. A lot of different aspects of things — Star Wars starts out saying it’s on some other galaxy and then you see there’s people. Starting in scene one there’s a problem, because human beings are the result of a unique evolutionary sequence based upon so many individually unlikely random events on the Earth. In fact, I think most evolutionary biologists would agree that if you started the Earth out again and just let those random factors operate you might wind up with beings that are as smart as us and as ethical and artistic and all the rest, but they would not be human beings. That’s for the Earth. So in another planet, different environment, very unlikely to have a human being. It’s extremely unlikely that there would be creatures as similar to us as the dominant ones in Star Wars. And a whole bunch of other things: they’re all white. The skin of all the humans in Star Wars, oddly enough, is like this. And not even the other colours represented on the Earth at present, much less greens and blues and purples and oranges. Carson pushes back slightly at this point: “They did have the scene of Star Wars with a lot of strange characters.” But Sagan persists: “Yeah, but none of them seem to be in charge of the galaxy. Everybody in charge of the galaxy seemed to look like us. And I thought it was a large amount of human chauvinism.”

Speaking the right lingo

Stuff kids misunderstood

1. “I remember when I was 6 years old I got hold of my dad’s ID and it had an expiration date. Spent three hours crying because I thought that he was set to die on that date.”
2. “My cousin was singing a song andthe next day I heard it on the radio. I was so proud of him thinking it was his song … how disappointed I was when I found out people were allowed to sing songs they didn’t write.”
3. “My mum got fired from her job when I was little and I cried because I thought that meant they were going to literally set her on fire.”
4. “Cried when I was 5 because my much older sister was pregnant … they told me i was going to be an aunt and I heard ‘ant’ and freaked out.”

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